England Under-21s reach Euro 2023 final – 5 things to look out for against Spain
England Under-21s are in Saturday’s Euro 2023 final against Spain as they look to win the tournament for the first time in 39 years.
The Young Lions beat Israel in Wednesday’s semi-final to reach their first final since 2009.
Here the PA news agency looks at some of the focal points ahead of the final.
It has been 39 years since the Under-21s last won the European Championship.
Then, it was back-to-back victories in 1982 and 1984 but the drought has not ended since. A 4-0 final thumping by Germany in 2009 is the closest they have got.
Lee Carsley’s side can make history in Batumi on Saturday.
England go into the final having scored 10 and conceded none. They have not been troubled at the back with James Trafford, close to a £15million switch to Burnley from Manchester City, unbeaten.
The final is a different matter and Spain will provide a sterner test on Saturday. They have scored 50 goals across qualifying and the tournament after thumping Ukraine 5-1 in their semi-final, but there will be a confidence and belief among the squad they can remain unbroken.
A long season
For most, including semi-final scorers Morgan Gibbs-White and Cole Palmer, their season started over 330 days ago.
The new Premier League campaign is just five weeks away and while the squad did manage to get a break before linking up they will be tired, both mentally and physically.
It all adds to the debate about player welfare and how much football players can manage.
A balanced squad
For a long time now the squad has seemed more than the sum of its parts.
Previous Under-21 campaigns have ended with disappointment with teams containing Phil Foden, James Maddison, Jordan Pickford, Tammy Abraham and Harry Kane.
This class have gelled and, while they are all talented players, they have arguably gone under the radar compared to their predecessors.
England will have to stop Braga’s Abel Ruiz, who will be out for revenge having lost the Under-17 World Cup final to the Young Lions in 2017.
The striker has three goals and two assists for Spain in the tournament and scored the Euros’ fastest-ever strike when he netted after 20 seconds against Croatia.
The 23-year-old also has two senior caps and came through the ranks at Barcelona before a 2020 move to Braga.